Guillermo Del Toro had arrived in American cinema with an impressive resume. Films such as “Cronos”, “Pan’s Labyrinth” and “The Devil’s Backbone” have made him to be one of the better storytellers in the horror and fantasy genre that he became one of the more influential names in Hollywood. While his American films have been a mixed bag with films such as “Hellboy” and “Blade 2”, you would be very hard-pressed to find a cinema fan who could deny that despite their flaws, his movies always carried a style that made him stand apart from the rest.
Surprisingly, Del Toro now appears to have made a love letter to Japanese Mecha-Anime with his latest film “Pacific Rim”. The film’s core plot (that he also co-wrote) is admittedly pretty thin. The film begins with a quick narration as to how legions of monstrous creatures that had come to be known as Kaiju, come rising from the sea. This brought forth a war with millions of casualties that would consume humanity’s resources for years on end. To combat something that conventional weaponry have little effect on, the world creates gigantic robotic warriors called the Jaeger, which are controlled simultaneously by two pilots whose minds are locked in a neural bridge. The massive robots manage to hold their own for awhile, until the Kaiju begins to evolve into more powerful, bigger and more dangerous monsters. This brings the Jaeger forces on the verge of defeat, that they must hatch up one final push for victory. And somehow, only a former Jaeger pilot, Becket (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee, Mako Mori (Rinko Kikuchi) may be the last chance to turn the tide and claim victory.
With nods to Japanese anime, yet none of its imagination and depth in storytelling, “Pacific Rim” boasts of stellar visual effects and impressive robot-monster fights that have not been made before by American filmmakers (nope the Transformers franchise does not count). Del Toro handles the material quite well and I do have to say that the film was competently directed. The life of “Pacific Rim” stems from the action set pieces and the battles between machine and monsters. The viewer could easily feel the impact, the crunch of metal against monstrous flesh, the intensity of the explosions because the battles were incredibly shot and executed. From a live-action standpoint, “Pacific Rim” may be one of the most awesome robot battles ever shot on film (but not in animation). Del Toro knew how to shoot the scenes and it was easy to follow what was going on on-screen, the screen never felt confusing or too busy and maintained its intensity with creative angling, close ups and posturing. The viewer could really feel the 'hugeness of the designs" that the film was very impessive from a technical standpoint. It was obvious that the director did his research in shooting such robotic-monster battles, as several shots looked like they were ripped from Japanese Mecha-Anime. The intensity, the power and the excitement were all there, the viewer could easily feel the power of the blows that made them carry an exhilarating tempo in the struggle.
I felt like I was watching a live-action film of Japanese mecha-anime, as Del Toro channels the excitement of the battles in the anime hit series “The Big O”, “Neon Genesis Evangelion”, “The Heroic Age” and sometimes even “Broken Blade”. Even the look of the machines, even though not entirely obvious, had the influences of Japanese anime. But as tough and cool as the robots looked, they lacked the personality of their Japanese anime counterparts. See, what made mecha anime special is the way that it makes the machines characters, rather than simple machines of war. I thought the film could’ve done a better job in defining the strengths and the weaknesses of the robots, and just how man and machine could really become one; with their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t get me wrong, the robots in “Pacific Rim” were insanely cool, but with the way they were defined in the narrative, such details would’ve made them even cooler and they would been crucial factors to advance its plot.
I do have to admit that while I thought the monster designs were clever and one even had a homage to “Godzilla” (the one with the illuminated scales-spikes), they looked rather familiar. I am sure with Del Toro at the helm, that influences of his works with “Hellboy” would come to bear, and they do. The colors and the textures used were undoubtedly meant as something inspired by those films. The monsters do look formidable in their own way, but they also lacked personality. They seemed to have the same approach to their attacks, save for the one that could fly and the one that spit acid, the creatures were simple brutes with hardly any intelligence or differences in attack. I also thought that the so-called “Level 5” monster should have been a lot more intimidating, but it was just a bigger one with more of the same. Huge roar and incredible strength, the battles could’ve been a lot more suspenseful if it took the time to develop both monsters and robots so that strategy and smarts played more of a factor than just trying to pound each other into dust. I mean, this is the beauty of Japanese Mecha-Anime, it gives the villains a personality by creating them to have weaknesses and a way of attack, while the robot tries to find those weaknesses and plan accordingly; and sometimes plans work and often they don't. It would've brought a lot of suspense into the mix. (viewers of Japanese anime would know exactly what I am trying to say)
I know, the screenplay in the film wants to take the viewer right in the middle of the action, but here lies the weaknesses in the screenplay. I thought the characters in the film were mere caricatures to those anime series; they lacked the depth, the dimensions to make the narrative much more compelling. The potentials were there, but they were merely imprints of what they were supposed to be. The former warrior (Becket), the problematic trainee (Kikuchi), the determined commander (Idris Elba) and even the two technical specialists (played by Charlie Day and Burn Gorman) were all staples of anime, but this time, they lacked the essential dimensions to bring a much stronger narrative. Despite their challenges and personal issues, the characters weren’t exactly as compelling as I had hoped for because of the way the story was structured around the robots. Ron Perlman does provide some needed humor even with his limited screen time.
I know some of you may be thinking that I have a lot of possible negative comments, but really, “Pacific Rim” is awesome if one is looking for raw entertainment. The film’s intention was to bring forth astonishing giant machines against gigantic monsters and on this part, it was impeccably executed. If you look deep into its plot, you would realize that it had a lot of missed opportunities, but really, once Del Toro has you by the neck with the incredible battles, you would easily forgive the shortcomings in its screenplay. It kicked the “Nuts” off Michael Bay’s “Transformers” franchise, and proves to be a step in the right direction if America wishes to adapt Japanese Mecha-Anime in the future. “Pacific Rim” may feel a little superficial, but hey, what it wanted to do, it did very well. It is awesome popcorn entertainment. Guillermo Del Toro scores “Huge” that “Pacific Rim” gets a Recommendation from me. [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Well it’s here everyone, my second my anticipated movie of the summer behind the exceptional World War Z. What could possibly be better than a worldwide zombie outbreak starring Brad Pit? How about a summer blockbuster about giant monsters and robots smashing the hell out of each other? It’s like someone watched a bunch of anime and decided that, hell yeah, mechs VS monsters is a freaking great idea for a movie and American audiences will eat it up. I mean, how can you screw that up? … more
Here's all the important things you need to know about director Guillermo del Toro's sci-fi, action film, 'Pacific Rim'... Planet Earth has been invaded by the Kaiju...Super sized monsters that have risen from a portal underneath the ocean...Millions of earthlings have died and things are not looking good for humanity. … more
If you're going to make a film about giant robots, then this is how to do it - pay attention, Michael Bay. Guillermo del Toro's two hour love letter to Japanese kaiju and mecha movies is monster bashing, robot smashing, debris crashing fun from start to finish. And, somewhat refreshingly, it's a big summer release that's not a sequel, a remake, an adaptation and not part of an existing franchise. This is a film painted in broad, operatic, comic book strokes with a very … more